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Willie le Roux

Springbok flyer, Willie le Roux

Springbok fullback Willie le Roux says he has settled in the role coach Heyneke Meyer has entrusted him with.

Le Roux has become a popular player in South Africa since making his Test debut against Italy in Durban in 2013.

His attacking influence has given the Springbok backline an expansive approach as he’s played a playmaker’s role in a number of tries scored over the past year. He’s also scored seven tries in his 17 appearances.

In those 17 appearances, the Boks have achieved 15 victories, emphasising Le Roux’s impact in the team.

Meyer has tested Le Roux at wing in four Tests, but he’s proven to be more effective at fullback, joining the line on attack at the right times, proving to be a major threat on the counter, showing great composure under the high ball and displaying an impressive kicking game.

“I’m definitely enjoying myself at fullback,” Le Roux told the MyPlayers website. “When I first started working with coach Heyneke, he told me to work on my kicking and skills under the high ball.

“That’s helped me to do well on the field. He’s also allowed me to express myself when the situation is on, which gives me the confidence to play my game.”

Le Roux added that the backline players have grown a strong bond.

“Most of us have played together for a while now, so there’s good team chemistry,” said Le Roux. “It’s nice to welcome new faces to the team, like Cornal Hendricks, who’s enjoying a great first season with the Boks, and Damian de Allende, who made his Test debut against Argentina.”

The Boks have endured a struggling start to the Rugby Championship, stuttering past Argentina to record a 13-6 home win in Pretoria and a 33-31 away victory in Salta.

After a short break since their return from South America, the team was given a short break. They re-group in Johannesburg on Thursday, and Le Roux said they will work on their problem areas.

“The first game against Argentina was very difficult for us because of the conditions. Then playing against Argentina away from home was another tough challenge,” said Le Roux. “We are happy to come out with the two wins, but we haven’t played our best rugby yet.

“As a team, we will be reviewing our performances and start working on the areas that need improvement. We will correct our mistakes and aim to do much better when we face the Wallabies in our next game.”

The Springboks embark on their Australasian tour on Saturday, where they’ll face the Wallabies in Perth (6 September) and All Blacks in Wellington (13 September).

 

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Bismarck du Plessis

Bismarck du Plessis

The Springboks may be feeling a slightly beleaguered bunch after their lucky escape in Argentina, but they look much better served than both next opponents for the moment in at least one key department for their tough, two-match Australasian challenge shortly.

Sport24

The Boks play Australia in Perth next Saturday and then New Zealand in Wellington a week later as they attempt to hold onto their lead on the Castle Rugby Championship table.

Coincidentally, both off their traditionally biggest southern hemisphere rivals are labouring, or at the very least unsettled at present, in the hooker department … one area where Heyneke Meyer’s charges have no issues at all with the almost parallel quality and experience offered by Bismarck du Plessis and Adriaan Strauss.

The Wallabies already have first-choice, hard-nosed No 2 Stephen Moore on the long-term crocked list through a knee reconstruction, whilst newcomer Nathan Charles from the Western Force – who earned just his second start in the 51-20 reverse to the All Blacks at Eden Park last Saturday – has succumbed to a season-ending pectoral tear.

In a hint of desperation, the Aussies have fast-tracked the chunky Tatafu Polota-Nau back into their squad after a knee injury, although coach Ewen McKenzie has admitted “next week’s a stretch” for the Waratahs stalwart and he is much likelier to play a role a week later against the Pumas.

That probably leaves the Wallabies with James Hanson of the Reds, twice an international substitute, forced into a starting debut against the Boks.

But the defending champion All Blacks also have certain upheaval in the middle of their front row –and of course lineout plans – with the revelation that the Hurricanes’ Dane Coles, the current first choice, will probably miss the Bok fixture as his partner is due to give birth to their first child around the time of the September 13 encounter.

Some consolation is that the gnarly Keven Mealamu, a long-time Blues legend and holder of 115 All Black caps, is favourite to wear the No 2 shirt and his competitive juices are often stirred more significantly than for most other foes by the challenge of the “green and gold”.

All of 11 years ago, for instance, he was the standout performer in the 2003 World Cup quarter-final in Melbourne when he also notched a try in New Zealand’s 29-9 disposal of South Africa: John Smit and Danie Coetzee (the reserve) were the Bok hookers that day and both have since retired from all forms of the game.

But the 35-year-old is arguably well past his best, which goes a long way to explaining why this year he has been employed exclusively as an impact substitute in all five Tests played by the All Blacks thus far.

There is also talk that New Zealand will ask uncapped 22-year-old Nathan Harris, of Bay of Plenty, to be the back-up hooker for the Bok clash – he has just had his maiden season of Super Rugby for the Chiefs.

In stark contrast, the Boks (unless there is a sudden, unwelcome mishap to either) will be able to put out their old firm in the No 2 slot of Sharks favourite Du Plessis and Bulls-bound former Cheetahs captain Strauss.

Du Plessis may have been notably short of his devastating, muscular best in both matches against the Pumas, but it is difficult to imagine he has not been bemused — and perhaps even stung — by the inexplicable amount of abuse that he and various other senior, proven Bok figures have copped since those two fixtures.

He also has a bit of a bone to pick with the All Blacks – and make no mistake, he is highly revered for his rugby skills in New Zealand – after his unjust red-carding by referee Romain Poite in last year’s away meeting.

As for Strauss, he only reminded of his own attributes in the Salta rollercoaster ride last Saturday, being one of several subs who entered the fray when the Boks were really under the cosh and helped sparked the late, decisive turnaround.

So whether he gets a start or not on the two-leg mission in Australasia, expect Strauss to see a fair amount of game-time nevertheless.

With their 98 Bok appearances between them, Du Plessis and Strauss offer oceans of stability to the South African cause at hooker.

The waters are choppier there for both the Wallabies and All Blacks right now, and it is one facet where South Africa should do their very utmost to cash in…

One Response to The Rugby Championship: Springboks – Willie happy at 15, Bokke have the edge at hooker


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